How To Get Airline Miles For Amazon.com Purchases

by Jason on July 25, 2012

in Hawaiian Airlines,Online Shopping

Chances are pretty good that you make at least a few purchases at Amazon.com every year. If you’re like me and you shop online almost religiously, then you’re probably making multiple purchases on Amazon every month. Amazon is great for their wide selection, incredible pricing, and reliable shipping. But if you’re a points and miles hoarder, the online retail giant can also be disappointing. In this post, I’ll walk you through a few options (and alternatives) for maximizing your Amazon.com purchases…

How Much Are Your Points & Miles Worth?

Before we get rolling, let’s get back to basics. It’s always good to start by reminding yourself why you’re collecting points and miles in the first place. This is mostly about how you VALUE each point and each mile in your rewards programs. The answer to this question is different for everyone and largely depends upon how you generally use your points.

But just for sake of argument, let’s say you value your points at about 5 cents each. If that’s true, then any purchase that earns you 1 point per dollar is effectively a 5 cents per 1 dollar rebate. In other words, a 5% savings. Obviously the savings isn’t immediate since you’ll have to wait to “cash in” your points until you’ve acquired enough to earn a free hotel or a free flight.

Points and miles valuation is super important to this whole process. If you haven’t already spent some time thinking about this and doing some personal calculations, I suggest you review my previous post on points valuation and spend 30 minutes figuring it out.

As you’ll see below, since Hawaiian Airlines is currently the only program offering 1 point per dollar spent at Amazon.com, you’ll want to spend some time figuring out the value of a Hawaiian Airlines award ticket.

Why There Are So Few Options For Amazon.com Points

The key to online shopping for travel points is finding an online shopping mall to offer you extra rewards points for your online purchases. So instead of just going straight to the online retailer’s website and making your purchase, you FIRST go to your favorite airline, hotel, or bank’s online shopping portal (like Chase Ultimate Rewards) and THEN click to visit the online retailer’s website. This way you get “extra points credit” for any purchases you make through this affiliate relationship.

Amazon is a discount retailer. They’re sort of the Wal-Mart of online shopping because they’ve created a powerful brand image as offering LOTS of stuff at rock bottom prices.

Since Amazon is in the “low prices” business, it’s difficult for them to offer kickbacks to Delta Airlines or Starwood Hotels in exchange for points. That, generally, is how this whole extra points arrangement works.

Also, I’m sure Amazon has its own private and internal reasons for not making their online store available on partner sites. I can only guess and speculate at these reasons. Maybe Amazon doesn’t really need the extra push from these affiliate relationships? Maybe they’ve had bad experiences with it? Who knows… We can only guess, but I suspect that their pricing and marketing strategy have a lot to do with it.

Use Hawaiian Airlines For Amazon.com Purchases

As of this writing, there is one airline offering extra points for Amazon.com purchases — Hawaiian Airlines. Even if you’ve never used Hawaiian Air I’d strongly suggest visiting their website now to create a free mileage account. Any purchases you make through the Hawaiian Airlines Shopping Mall on Amazon.com can earn you 1 extra mile per dollar spent.

You never know when Hawaiian Airlines could become an important part of your points and miles arsenal. Plus, Hawaii is a really popular and desirable place to travel. Free plane ticket to Hawaii? You can’t go wrong there.

So, we already know that Hawaiian Airlines offers an extra 1 point per dollar when you buy something on Amazon. Then we might want to start by finding out approximately how much an award ticket would cost for our desired trip to Hawaii.

Using Kayak.com I’ve found a First Class flight from my home airport SFO to Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines round trip for $1,320 per person. According to the Hawaiian Airlines website Award Chart, a saver award in first class would run me 40,000 HA points each way. That’s 80,000 points for a round-trip ticket.

Hawaiian Airlines First Class Ticket

If I pay cash for the ticket, I would be looking at a $1,320 purchase. If I pay points for the same ticket, I’d be giving up 80,000 points. In other words, each point (in this case) has a cash value of $0.0165 or about 1.6 cents per point.

Not looking good.

For an economy ticket, my cash price would be $387 and my points price would be 40,000 points. Now we’re looking at about $0.009675 or less than 1 cent per mile.

Even worse.

Comparison Shop Before Using Amazon.com

If my best option here is to get a 1.6 cent value per point for my Amazon purchases, then it definitely makes sense to look elsewhere for other options. For example, let’s say I’m interested in buying a new coffee maker on Amazon.com and the price is $24.97 on their website. If I use the Hawaiian shopping portal, my extra point per dollar really only amounts to about a 1.6% savings on my purchase. Then, my $24.97 coffee maker now costs $24.57 after subtracting my “travel savings” from acquiring HA miles.

So let’s say I find the same product via the American Airlines or United shopping mall for $29.95 (about $5 more than the Amazon.com version) on a different retail website. But on the United shopping mall, I get 3 extra points per $1 spent at this alternate retailer. (Again, this is just an example.)

Since I value United points at 5 cents each, I’m looking at an extra 15% rebate for these additional travel points (3 extra points X $0.05 cents per point = $0.15 cents per point or 15% total value).

In this case, it probably makes more sense to use the alternate route even though the cost is slightly higher for my coffee maker. In the long run, I’ll get more value for the points AND I’ll reach my desired award ticket levels much faster.

The Amazon.com Credit Card

Another option to consider in all of this is the Amazon.com credit card. I personally don’t have this card and don’t know very much about it, but some of my friends speak very highly about it.

As always, how you approach this will depend on your personal preferences and your unique situation. For example, you might PREFER immediate cash savings over future potential travel rebates. Or, you might live on the east coast. A first class flight from JFK to Honolulu on Hawaiian Airlines has a cash value more in the $3,000 range — more than 2x my flight costs from here on the west coast.

There’s a lot to consider here. The most important thing is to remember that your ultimate goal is to find the best strategy that works for you. And remember, even if you manage to get 10,000 miles in your Hawaiian Airlines account from Amazon purchases — they will have ZERO value until you actually get to use them!

Good luck and please leave your feedback below, especially if you have additional tips for Amazon.com and/or Hawaiian Airlines. Cheers!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Justin July 27, 2012 at 7:33 am

You can also transfer Hawaiian Airlines miles to Hilton HHonors at 1:2, which makes them a little more useful if you’re determined to purchase from Amazon.

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Jason July 27, 2012 at 9:59 am

Thanks, Justin! Great tip. Here’s a link to the Hawaiian Air Transfer Partners Info Page for anyone interested.

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